Rethinking the link between public engagement and project success
conference contributionposted on 24.07.2017, 11:40 by Vivien ChowVivien Chow, Roine Leiringer
The practice of engaging the public in decision-making during the planning or development stages of construction projects has become prevalent around the world in recent years. This is especially true of government projects, where the end users, and hence the people affected the most, are members of the public. A strong theoretical link exists between public engagement and successful planning, drawn from democratic theory. The same cannot be said for links between public engagement and project management. From a project management perspective, public engagement practices are often justified as a deterrent against public protests which may lead to bad press, political upheaval, and possible eventual frustration of the project. The success of public engagement then is linked to how it might enhance the possibility of success for a project, using whatever metrics by which project success is usually measured. While this view has been useful in its application in numerous studies, conceptualising public engagement in this manner also has its limitations. This paper critically evaluates the theoretical assumptions that have been used to establish the dominant view of public engagement as a risk management exercise strongly linked to project success. In doing so, we propose an alternative way of conceptualising public engagement, which views public engagement as a phenomenon decoupled from project success. An argument is made for accepting the uncertain nature of public engagement processes and placing emphasis instead on how events change and develop over time.
- Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering